Drought conditions may cause some disruptions in water availability. For example, springs or surface water sources for grazing animals may cease to supply adequate water during drought conditions.

Emergency response plans should be developed to procure the water that animals need, points out Maurice Eastridge, professor and extension dairy specialist at The Ohio State University.

The approximate total water needs for the farm should be assessed, assuming the following:

  • Heifers: 1 gallon per day per 75 pounds of body weight
  • Dry cows: 12 to 16 gallons per day
  • Lactating cows: 8 to 10 gallons per day, plus 0.35 gallon per pound of milk

Water deprivation severely limits animal performance and can be life-threatening in a short period of time, Eastridge says. Once water deprivation has occurred for an extended period of time, animals should NOT be given immediate free choice to water. Overconsumption of water at this point can cause severe health issues. At first, limit animal exposure to the water, followed later with free-choice water.